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Personal Growth, Chimpanzee Welfare, and Studying Abroad

Posted by Dr. Stacy Lopresti-Goodman on 12/10/15 3:30 PM


When you look back at your college experience, what do you think you'll cherish the most? What will you be most glad you did? What will you find the most important to your personal development? As important as PSY 101 is, chances are that the class alone won't be many students' answer. 

Here at Marymount, we focus our efforts on helping students develop their intellectual curiosity, gain a global perspective, and appreciate the importance of service to others. 

As a psychology professor, I try to incorporate these themes into all of my courses; whether we’re discussing the ethics of using animals in research, or cultural differences in social behavior.

An important way I reinforce this is by bringing students to other parts of the world to make the knowledge they learn in the classroom come to life through research and service projects.

With support from Marymount’s Center for Global Education, I’ve been fortunate enough to bring students to Kenya three times, and am preparing for a new program I will be leading in Spain this summer.

Both of the Kenya and the Spain study abroad programs integrate research and service in a global setting by investigating the complex relationships between humans and chimpanzees, our closest living relatives (Pic 1). In Kenya, students focused on the complicated social and economic factors that lead to the illegal hunting of endangered chimpanzees in Africa, and the implications this has for social and chimpanzee welfare (Pic 2).


(Our 2014 study group at Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Kenya.)

After returning from abroad, students have continued applying their experiences by helping chimpanzees. For example, some have lobbied state and federal lawmakers to support bills to strengthen protections for chimpanzees in the U.S., (Pic 3). Others have presented the data they collected abroad at regional and national research conferences (Pic 4).

In Spain, we’ll be exploring the exploitation of chimpanzees in the “pet” and entertainment industry in Europe. Students will work with scientists and caregivers to learn about what is being done to rehabilitate physically abused and psychologically traumatized chimpanzees. They will help with this important effort by applying the knowledge and research skills they develop on campus to conduct behavioral observations at the sanctuary.


Some students from 2011 and 2012 study group programs after a day of lobbying at the Capital Building.

In an increasingly global community, being exposed to different cultures, international travel, eating new foods and learning how to speak another language, even if not fluently, contributes to my students’ personal growth and development. These experiences also help students gain the necessary research and critical thinking skills for admission to graduate schools or for starting their careers.


 (Lorine Margeson '17 presenting data from her 2014 study abroad program to Kenya at the Eastern Psychological Association Conference in Philadelphia.)

When asked about studying abroad, Katie Guajardo, who went to Kenya with me expressed, “It’s amazing the things we encountered… It was completely remarkable and life-changing.”

Whether you want to travel to Africa or Europe, or learn about global issues from the comforts of Arlington, there is no shortage of opportunities here. From my own personal experiences, and from the ways I have seen these programs impact my students, I believe that seeking opportunities that nudge us from our comfort zones, and challenge us to think about our place in the world, are some of the most memorable and meaningful ways to learn. I encourage all students to find ways to get out there; explore your passions AND the world!

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Posted by Dr. Stacy Lopresti-Goodman

Stacy Lopresti-Goodman has been a psychology professor at Marymount University since 2009, and was the 2013 recipient of the Robert A. Draghi Outstanding Faculty Award. Some of her favorite classes to teach are General Psychology, Biological Bases of Behavior and Abnormal Primate Psychology. When she is not working with students on campus or abroad, or observing chimpanzees in sanctuary, she loves spending time with the four animals in her house: her husband, two cats and a dog.

Topics: Marymount Student Stories, Marymount’s Undergraduate Events & Info

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